When her baby Charlotte was born prematurely, Red Hill mum Julia Plackner looked at her little daughter’s tiny frame and marvelled at the miracle that enabled her safe delivery at Mater Mothers’ Private Hospital via emergency caesarean, despite being 15 weeks early.
Today, the little baby that weighed the same as a mango at birth thrives at home under the loving care of her parents, having undergone life-saving treatment during a remarkable three-month stay in Mater’s Neonatal Critical Care Unit.
Mum Julia said her pregnancy had been progressing normally until she suffered an infection at 25 weeks, which caused severe cramps and bleeding.
“Doctors told me I was about 4 cm dilated when I got to hospital,” she said.
“I needed an emergency caesarean when doctors realised Charlotte’s heartbeat was irregular – beating fast and then sometimes suddenly slowing.
“She was given a 60 to 70 per cent chance of survival before she was even born.”
Mrs Plackner described her daughter’s birth on June 13 as “pretty scary”.
“I was under general anaesthetic when Charlotte was born,” she said.
“Chris my husband was there and witnessed it all – even Charlotte being resuscitated when she wasn’t breathing.
“She weighed just 754 grams. The doctors told me Charlotte was lucky to be alive.”
The Plackners have thanked the multidisciplinary team who saved their daughter’s life ahead of World Prematurity Day on 17 Nov 2023.
Mater Neonatologist Dr Richard Mausling cared for baby Charlotte while she remained in hospital and said her strength was impressive.
He said Charlotte’s prematurity caused her to have respiratory distress syndrome, which required a short period of ventilation. She also subsequently went on to develop chronic neonatal lung disease.
“To think she weighed the size of a mango when she was born and went home at 3.3 kg, fully suck feeding and only needing low flow home oxygen, is truly remarkable,” Dr Mausling said.
“I feel very privileged to play a very small part in a truly exceptional team at the Mater Mothers’ Hospital Neonatal Critical Care Unit whose sole purpose is to look after babies and families like Charlotte’s.”
Charlotte required a single blood transfusion when she was 36 days old, Dr Mausling said.
“This is quite exceptional really as many babies born at this gestational age and birth weight would usually require several blood transfusions during their stay in the Neonatal Critical Care Unit (NCCU),” he said.
“We are very lucky to have access to very safe and readily available blood and blood products from the Australian Red Cross Lifeblood. Without the generosity of regular donations of blood from blood donors, babies like Charlotte would possibly have very different outcomes.”
Each year more than 2000 very sick and premature babies receive round-the-clock specialist care from the team in Mater Mothers’ Neonatal Critical Care Unit.
Now tipping the scales at a healthy 4.6kg, Mrs Plackner described Charlotte as a happy and bubbly girl.
“Charlotte still requires oxygen support while sleeping but other than that, she’s smashing everything out of the park. For someone who has been in hospital for 90 days, she’s doing fine,” Mrs Plackner, a lawyer, said.
“Charlotte was discharged from hospital on 11 September and gained 800 grams in the first three weeks of being home.
“It’s cliché, but she really is a miracle. When I look at photos from when she was born, I can’t believe it’s the same baby,” she said.
“It’s been a wild ride and she’s come so far.”